The other day my friend Becca shared a Facebook post that shocked the lot of us – we’d officially left school five years ago. A whole five years of our lives have passed since we were sat at school believing it’d never end. That means that I started Secondary School ten years ago this September! That’s absolutely crazy – at the time it felt never ending but now it feels like it’s been about five minutes since I put on my brand new uniform and caught the mini bus to my brand new school.
A lot of young people will be starting Secondary School this September and I wanted to pass on a bit of my wisdom to those people. There’s also some advice in here for people already at Secondary School. So here I present, five things I wish I’d known before starting Secondary School.
1. Friendships Will Naturally Form
It’s quite sad to leave most of your primary school friends behind and head to Secondary – in Telford we have way less Secondary’s than Primary’s so I started Secondary with about three other girls who had been to my primary school. I got on well with them but in my last year of Primary I’d been best friends with two year five girls and had grown apart from my friends in the same year as me. And anyway, I wanted to make some new friends. Because that was the point, wasn’t it?
This meant I was friendly to absolutely everybody – which I absolutely advise because what’s the point in being mean – but it also meant I tried to force myself into being best friends with people that I had little in common with. Be nice to everyone and you’ll soon find the people that you share similar interests with and that you naturally click with.
Also remember that your friendship group won’t necessarily stay the same the entire time you’re at Secondary School. My best friend in Year 7 wasn’t my best friend in Year 11 and that’s fine! People change over time, especially when you’re teenagers and sort of figuring out who you are and what you’re interested in and people naturally gravitate away from each other. I had several different friendship groups over my years at Secondary and I value all of them – but I’m in the right group for me now.
So my advice is to be nice to everybody – some people won’t be nice back but try not to focus on them. Focus on your friends and having a good time (whilst studying and working hard too obviously).
2. Boys Aren’t That Important
I’m sorry to all the boys reading this but as I’m a girl most of this advice is tailored towards girls.
I don’t mean my point as in ‘ignore all the boys, they’re worthless’ – if you end up making friends with a ton of boys then great, that’s cool! What I mean is that you shouldn’t put your value on whether you have a boyfriend or not, like I did for the majority of my time in Secondary School.
You will probably develop a crush on someone there – you’re there every single day and it just kind of happens. Me and my friends regularly discuss who we had crushes on in Secondary School and have a good laugh about it now because we would just never go there now. We honestly can’t believe some of the people we used to have crushes on back then.
In fact there was one guy that me, Jess and Hirst all dated at one point who we wouldn’t even want to talk to nowadays let alone date them. I remember he broke up with his current girlfriend to be with me which at the time I thought was like a massive romantic gesture but now raises complete alarm bells – if he could do that to her, what would stop him doing that to me?
My honest advice would be to try and forget about boyfriends and just focus on having a good time with your mates. I hate the fact I spent so much time at school hating myself because the boys at my school didn’t find me attractive – big deal! Who cares what they think? Enjoy the time you have now with your mates before you all get jobs and only hang out once a month – you can tell yourself it won’t happen to you but the moment you all get different schedules you’ll find once a month is actually a blessing.
3. If You Don’t Understand Then Just Say So
Okay this is bad to admit but in Year 9 we were doing a Science test and we were sat two to a table with instructions not to cheat. My friend kept glancing at my paper and whispering “Are you thick? That’s not the answer, this is the answer!” So obviously I put what she told me and passed the exam. During my GCSE year I was put into the higher Science class – and didn’t understand a word of it. By the end of the year I failed my first GCSE exam and had to be put down into BTECH where I had a year to complete a two year course.
For a while I felt like I was extremely stupid – never mind that I was in top class for every other subject, I was failing one class so I was an idiot. But I wasn’t. I just didn’t get science – still don’t in fact. And that’s fine. I should’ve been more honest at the time that it was my weaker point and maybe someone could’ve helped me.
This bad habit has kind of followed me throughout my academic life. In school I was very much ‘I don’t get it but I just won’t say anything’ – I kept this attitude in college and university and it’s such a bad habit! If you don’t understand then put your hand up and say “Hey, I don’t get this, can you explain it in a different way?” Everyone learns differently and no one should expect everyone to understand from just one explanation.
I had a friend who regularly talked to teachers and they went through what she didn’t understand until she did, and when it came to exams she knew how to revise and always did really well. I never knew how to revise and ended up ‘winging it’ more than half the time and trust me, it’s not a good habit to get into because it’s difficult to break it. Ask as many questions as possible – if you’re embarrassed to do it in front of the whole class then either call the teacher over when everyone’s started working, speak to them after class or even send them an email and tell them you were too embarrassed to say so in class but you really didn’t get it. You’re not thick or stupid for not understanding, it just needs to be explained in a different way.
4. Just Sit Down and Do Your Homework
At the start of every academic year I was full of good intentions – I’d do my homework the same day it was set as soon as I got in so I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. And within a couple of weeks it had slipped and soon I was only completing homework for the teachers that I knew would give me detention if I didn’t complete it. And even then most of the time I was completing it the lunch time before the lesson itself. This is another bad habit to have!
I’ll be honest with you, homework feels like a massive pain and even now I sometimes sit back and think about how happy I am that I no longer need to do any. But it’s set for a reason so do your best to always complete it. If you don’t understand then either ask your parents for help or do your best and then go back to school and explain you tried but didn’t really understand.
Also, terrible advice here, but if you do your homework regularly then on the odd occasions you do forget the teachers are more likely to forgive you and give you an extension. I remember my friend lying to the teacher and saying she’d done her homework but had left it at home. Because she regularly did her homework and never really got into any trouble the teacher went “Okay, I believe you”.
But honestly, just do it! Preferably on the day it’s set and as soon as you get in so that you don’t have to worry about it after that.
Another tip – make sure you accurately write down what you’re supposed to be doing. Once I wrote down ‘RE poem things’, sat down to my homework a week later and had no idea what it meant. I did the work wrong, because I genuinely forgot what I was meant to do, and the teacher accused me of being lazy. Which was fair enough but I wasn’t lazy for doing the wrong homework, I was lazy for not recording down what I was actually meant to do in the first place.
Start as you mean to go on and do your best to complete all of your homework!
5. You Don’t Have to Decide Your Career Right Now
I know the pressure will feel like a lot because suddenly your teachers are banging on about how important it is that you pick the right GCSEs that will define your entire career and whatever but trust me, you don’t have to pick at age fourteen what you want to do with the rest of your life. I’m twenty-one and I still don’t really know what I’m doing and I’m currently working a job I wouldn’t have dreamed of having in school.
Picking my GCSEs was a bit different because at the time we were told if we picked certain subjects we’d get a qualification called the ‘English Baccalaureate’ – I had to Google it and according to Google it’s still a thing but after I’d picked my GCSEs I was told this qualification had been dropped, something I was absolutely livid about. To get this qualification you had to have English, Maths, a humanities subject and a language subject.
Ultimately I don’t think this would’ve drastically changed my GCSE choices – I chose History, Spanish, Music and Performing Arts. The only thing different would’ve been that I definitely would not have picked Spanish because although I’m desperate to learn a new language there’s just not enough emphasis on language for British children in public schools to completely pick up a new language. The only phrase I remember from Spanish class now is ‘tengo barba y me lamo’ which literally translates to “I have a beard and I lick myself.”
When picking your GCSE choices don’t stress yourself out – pick subjects you’ll enjoy and that you’ll feel motivated to study for. Obviously there are some subjects you have no choice whether you do or not like English, Maths etc. But at our school we had two full days dedicated to whichever GCSE options you’d picked. For example once every two weeks I had triple Spanish on a Tuesday morning. Not exactly my idea of fun but it wasn’t the worst thing ever. Now if I’d had to do three hours of Geography or three hours of Art I might have genuinely jumped out of a window, that would’ve been Hell for me.
If you have an idea of what you want to do then pick subjects that relate to that. If you want to study History at university then it might be a good idea to pick that for a GCSE. But don’t worry about ‘picking the wrong ones’, it’s not worth getting stressed about.
Also make an appointment with the careers advisor in Year Eleven, I remember going to the library with my friends and all of us begging for an appointment soon because we were stressed and didn’t know what to do. She was nice, she didn’t scoff at me wanting to become a writer one day, she actually found some useful things for me to look through and talked about how I could achieve that. I wish I could speak to a careers advisor now, god knows I need one.
My point is that at the time I didn’t know what I wanted to do and that’s fine, if I don’t know now at twenty-one then I certainly had no clue back when I was fourteen. And if you do have an idea then that’s awesome, work towards it and do your best to achieve it! But don’t stress if you don’t have a plan.
There we go, that’s enough wisdom for one day. Feel free to leave a comment, if you have your own advice, if you’re after advice, if you wanna tell me a story, just comment if you want to!